The United Nations Environment Programme (unep) in its Global Environment Outlook 2000 report has painted a devastating picture of the Earth's health on the eve of the new millennium.
"The gains made by better management and technology are still being outpaced by the environmental impacts of population and economic growth. We are on an unsustainable course," Klaus Toepfer, head of the unep said at the launch of the report. The report says emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming have quadrupled since the 1950s, and "binding" targets to reduce emissions agreed by governments at last year's Kyoto summit may not be met. The rate at which humans are destroying the environment is accelerating -- often the result of excessive consumption by the rich and to the detriment of the poor.
About 20 per cent of the world's population lacks access to safe drinking water and 50 per cent have no access to a sanitation system. This situation will get worse as the world's population is set to increase by 50 per cent in the next 50 years.
Eighty percent of the world's original forest cover has been cleared or degraded, and logging and mining projects threaten 39 per cent of what forest remains. A quarter of mammal species may be totally extinct, while more than half the world's coral reefs are under threat from human activities.